Written By: Chris Creamer•
Friday, July 27, 2012
Well… that was fast.
The London Rippers, the oft-controversial Frontier League baseball team who came into the City of London, Ontario riding a wave of public uproar and media interest is gone, just as quickly as it came.
Claims of unpaid wages and rent seems to be the leading cause of the sudden demise of the Rippers, just two months removed from their opening game. The Frontier League plans on continuing their schedule by way of a team playing nothing but road games the rest of the way, the “Road Warriors” is the name they will adopt.
Everyone’s free to have their own opinion about the name and branding the team adopted; but it got people talking didn’t it?
How often is a minor league baseball team out of London, Ontario, Canada going to make headlines in the United States? Baseball had failed in London several times before, so team president David Martin and his team of sports marketers had to try something different, anything, to get the attention of the public, and he was successful at least in that regard, you cannot argue that.
One thing about how Martin and his team handled the controversy that I didn’t like was his skirting of reality. Instead he invented elaborate stories explaining how it’s not Jack the Ripper at all, it’s just a coincidence. Despite the city being named London (where Jack the Ripper did his deeds), the team named “Rippers”, and their team mascot being named “Jack”.
What Martin should have done right from the start was say something along the lines of, “Yeah it’s Jack the Ripper, but that was over 100 years ago – let’s move on already” or “How about those Minnesota Vikings?”
But the team still ultimately failed… fast.
I was invited down to London to check out the inaugural home game of the London Rippers, and I was treated quite well to be honest. A free pair of front row seats behind home plate, doesn’t get much better than that… but at the game I noticed something right away, the controversial “Jack the Ripper” logo was nowhere to be seen on stadium signage.
For a team that went so far out of its way to push forward with this brand despite outcries from the public I found it awfully strange they would suddenly do a 180 and cave into their opponents. Jack was gone, in his place was an angry looking dog mascot ripping the cover off a baseball (ripping the cover off, London Rippers, get it?).
After the game I asked a member of their front office what the deal was… what I was told surprised me.
“The City of London won’t let us put up Jack in the stadium”, said the employee… ”He has a weapon, he’s holding a baseball bat, right?”
It’s one of those explanations that’s too unbelievable to be true, but then again when dealing with members of a city council it’s just the type of lame reason you’d expect.
I also wondered if they noticed the new dog logo was holding a baseball bat as well.
The team faced it’s obstacles, presumably because of the brand…
Beer sales were not allowed in the park, either due once again to city council or due to the other ball club that uses the ballpark controlling liquor sales at the venue – depends on who you ask.
Local groups, churches, and schools were weary of supporting a team with such an offensive name and brand, scaring off one of the biggest sources of tickets for small-town ball clubs… one could also logically conclude that if selling tickets to groups was tricky then securing sponsors would be even more difficult.
“People were telling us we shouldn’t be promoting rape, saying we should go get raped ourselves. Stuff like that.” - Former team intern April Whitzman told Metro News London
So whatever the reason, the team is gone, and that’s a shame… especially if it’s due to the brand and brand alone.
My experience seeing a London Rippers game was ultimately a positive one, although there were some hiccups…
Food and merchandise stands took cash only, absolutely unacceptable in this day and age. An ATM machine was made available, however she was broken and proved useless. During my search for cash I talked with several game day employees, many of whom I had to end up teaching that there even was an ATM in-stadium and that nobody accepted plastic payment. After one inning as a fan I was more trained than most Rippers/Labatt Park staff members.
Play had to be stopped on more than one occasion because the PA announcer would randomly announce the batter while the pitcher was in his wind-up… sometimes even throwing in horrible jokes. A horrible joke is tolerable for a chuckle now and then; when it’s interrupting the game it’s an extreme annoyance. Remember, ultimately fans are paying to watch the game – don’t ever take away from the game.
The uniforms were abysmal. Seriously. What they unveiled along with the team logo was nice, I don’t know why they weren’t wearing those, but all red jersey, all red pants, and random maple leaves plastered all over… why?
Bloodclot looking players aside… C’mon already! We know we are in Canada, we’re not stupid. Can we get a Canadian team out there that doesn’t go crazy with the patriotism? You’re the London Rippers, you’re not the Canada Maple Leafs, if you wanted to play Captain Canuck then adopt an appropriate name for the club.
So yes, there were issues, but it was opening day — it happens.
On the plus side, the level of play I saw, while not Major League, was still enjoyable. Ticket prices were more than reasonable, the stadium was nice and had some games set up for the kiddies, they sold carnival food at one stand which was fun and probably was tasty. Fans were invited onto the field to meet players following the game and run the bases.
Assuming those issues mentioned earlier were cleared up I would have purchased season tickets had I lived closer to the area (and even if they weren’t I probably would have anyways, let’s be honest)
I managed to find some cash and pick up some merchandise before the game ended, very glad I did now as obviously it’s just not available anymore.
The Rippers will live forever in the Frontier League’s “Teams of the Past” section of SportsLogos.Net, as a bullet-point in future news articles next to the Tigers, Werewolves, and Monarchs whenever London gets its next ball team, and in 25 different Bleacher Report’s “Most Controversial Team Logos” slideshows.
So long to the London Rippers.